In March, 1968, I turned 18 barely a month after the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Within 3 days I reported to my draft board and registered, otherwise a deputy Sheriff would have come to my high school to escort me to the bus station and a free trip to Ft. Benning, Georgia, but I digress. At my recently desegregated high school, I enjoyed my deferment. The only times I remember thinking about such violence was after watching the nightly news.
By 1968, with no Internet, laptops or cell phones, television had become the dominant news medium, following from the live televised assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald five years earlier. Night after night at supper time, anchors Bob Young (ABC), Walter Cronkite (CBS) and the team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley (NBC) reported the carnage of the Vietnam war and the outrage surrounding the civil rights movement. Sound on film replayed the gunfire and the violence.
I had seen Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on television. Of him I heard mostly vile things, since I lived in the rural south where the idea of “separate but equal” still held and the term African-American was unknown. I recall thinking at the time that he and other leaders of the civil rights movement were sure putting themselves in harm’s way by their exposure as targets; especially Dr. King, who was all over television leading marches and being interviewed.
April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray shouldered a Remington.30-06-caliber rifle with a Redfield 2×7 scope and pulled the trigger.
My hero and presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy broke the news of Dr. King’s assassination to a crowd in Indianapolis. Kennedy spoke of King’s dedication to “love and to justice between fellow human beings,” adding that “he died in the cause of that effort.” Rioting broke out in Memphis and 4,000 guardsmen were called out. Other cities burned, but Indianapolis did not. “I had a member of my family killed,” Kennedy said, “but he was killed by a white man.”
June 5th, 1968, Sirhan Sirhan pulled out a .22 caliber revolver and fired eight shots.
I do not remember hearing calls for any kind of gun control, though, until after the failed Reagan assassination attempt, March 1981, when John Hinckley fired a .22 caliber Röhm RG-14 revolver six times and wounded both the president and his press secretary, James Brady. It made the nightly news after it appeared within minutes on CNN. Subsequently, after a seven year battle, President Clinton signed into law the Brady Bill, which requires a five day waiting period and background checks on handgun purchases.
If you love data, and who doesn’t, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has a graphic on its home page that updates how many people are shot in America so far this year and so far today. As I posted this article as “Pending,” the numbers reported 5080 people shot to date, 255 today.
In the aftermath of the Giffords shooting, you may or may not know that Arizona has virtually no restrictions on guns and recently became the third state to allow people to carry concealed weapons in public places without a permit. The state also recently allowed concealed weapon carriers to take their guns into bars and just last year became the third state to make it legal for adults to carry a concealed weapon without getting training and a background check.
Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams is one of 61 Republicans making up two thirds of the 90-member Legislature. According to AP, Adams said last year’s bill to legalize carrying concealed weapons without a permit wasn’t a mistake. “Arizona remains a place that is respectful and adamant about our Second Amendment rights, and I think the people of Arizona support that,” Adams said. The state ranks 5th in the nation in gun deaths, behind Wyoming, Louisiana, Alaska and the District of Columbia.